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Gerolimenas, South Peloponnese Gerolimenas, South Peloponnese

The Peloponnese, a vibrant region of Greece, offers an exceptional culinary journey that mirrors its rich history and diverse landscapes. Known for its fertile soil and favourable climate, the Peloponnese produces a variety of local products that are central to its cuisine. Olive oil is a cornerstone, with the region's groves yielding some of the finest oils in the world. Kalamata olives, renowned for their robust flavour and firm texture, are another staple. Fresh seafood, caught daily from the surrounding seas, features prominently in many dishes, including grilled octopus and seafood saganaki. The region is also celebrated for its cheeses, such as feta and the lesser-known sfela. Traditional dishes like moussaka, pastitsio, and souvlaki showcase the hearty, flavourful nature of Peloponnesian cuisine. Unique local delicacies include lalagia (fried dough strips) and syglino (smoked pork). Pair these with wines from the Nemea region, known for its exceptional red wines, particularly those made from the Agiorgitiko grape. 

The Messinian diet, an integral part of the broader Mediterranean diet recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, emphasises seasonality and pure ingredients. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, this diet is linked to longevity and features a variety of local produce. Staples include olives, olive oil, wine, raisins, and cheeses, which are produced and exported in large quantities. Additionally, figs, oranges, artichokes, prickly pears, and wild herbs sourced from Mount Taygetos enrich the diet. Beyond its nutritional benefits, the Messinian diet encapsulates the region's culture and daily life. Locals are deeply involved in the cultivation and preparation of their food, with recipes passed down through generations. This lifestyle fosters a strong sense of community and open-hearted hospitality. Towns like Koroni exemplify this philosophy, with local products readily available in tavernas, grocery stores, and markets, often produced just a few kilometres from where visitors stay.

From the historic city of Kalamata, to the medieval fortress town of Monemvasia, each locale offers unique experiences. In Corinth, visitors can marvel at the ancient ruins, while Nafplion enchants with its neoclassical architecture and seaside charm. Ancient Epidaurus and Mycenae are steeped in history, showcasing remarkable archaeological sites. The mountainous landscapes of Arcadia provide a serene escape, and Patras, the region's largest city, is vibrant with cultural festivals. Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, invites awe with its historical significance. Culinary enthusiasts will delight in the traditional dishes and local products found throughout the Peloponnese, such as the famed Kalamata olives, honey, citrus fruits, and delectable cheeses, offering a true taste of Greek heritage. Whether you're dining in a seaside taverna or a rustic mountain village, the Peloponnese offers a gastronomic experience that is as rich and varied as its storied past.

Olive oil Olive oil

Olives and olive oil

Messinia, and particularly Kalamata, is renowned for its local products, especially olives and olive oil, which are central to the region's culinary identity. Family-owned olive groves dot the landscape, and the annual olive harvest is a time of communal gathering. The olive oil produced here, predominantly from the Koroneiki variety, boasts an intense green hue and rich flavour, earning its PDO status in 1997. This extra-virgin olive oil, comprising 70-80% monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, is a cornerstone of the Messinian diet, demonstrating significant health benefits. Impressively, 95% of Messinia's olive oil is extra-virgin and is versatile in its use, enhancing everything from salads to sweets. Yet, it is perhaps best enjoyed simply, drizzled over warm bread with olives and tomatoes. Additionally, Kalamata is famous for its table olives, primarily from the Kalamon variety, which are highly valued for their firm texture and fruity taste, making them a global favourite in salads and various dishes.

Greek vineyard Greek vineyard

Wine

Messinia, a region with a rich history of wine production dating back to antiquity, is renowned for its exceptional quality grapes and wines. Evidence of its long-standing viticulture can be found in ancient coinage, such as those from Koroni, depicting bunches of grapes. Today, Messinian wines are celebrated for their fruity aroma, full-bodied flavour, and vibrant colour. The region is dotted with numerous vineyards offering visitors the opportunity to explore the winemaking process through vineyard and cellar tours. These tours often include wine tasting experiences where guests can sample and learn about the unique local grape varieties that contribute to Messinia's esteemed wine reputation.

Raisins Raisins

Raisins

Mavromata, also known as the black Corinthian grape, holds significant cultural and economic value in Messinia. These grapes have been a staple in the local diet since ancient times, with references found in the works of Herodotus, Plato, and Aristotle. Today, they are enjoyed as a snack and incorporated into traditional dishes such as stuffed tomatoes and peppers. Beyond their culinary uses, Mavromata grapes are pivotal to the economy of the Peloponnese, particularly as an export product. They are also essential in producing the region's renowned balsamic vinegar. If you visit Messinia in August, you'll witness the sweet, seedless Corinthian grapes drying under the sun on threshing floors, ready to be processed and shipped to both local and international markets.

Figs Figs

Figs

Figs are a treasured Messinian local product, known for their abundance since ancient times. In the summer, these sweet fruits can be enjoyed straight from the tree, offering a burst of natural flavour. For those not consumed fresh, figs are often preserved as jams and spoon sweets, perfect companions to yoghurt or a slice of bread. Additionally, figs are made into fig paste and fig syrup, extending their deliciousness throughout the year. Sun-dried figs make excellent additions to salads or can be enjoyed as a nutritious snack anytime. These dried figs can be creatively enhanced by sprinkling with sesame seeds, wrapping in bay leaves, or stuffing with nuts. Rich in vitamins A, B1, B6, and C, and minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, figs are not only versatile but also a healthful component of the Messinian diet, contributing significantly to overall well-being.

Regional cheeses Regional cheeses

Cheeses

Sfela

Sfela is one of the region's most renowned cheeses, sharing a kinship with feta and holding a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status since 1996. This semi-hard cheese is crafted from the milk of goats and sheep that are exclusively raised in Messinia and neighbouring Laconia. Its distinctive slightly salty and spicy flavour is derived from a maturation process that involves aging in brine for at least three months. The name "Sfela" originates from the local dialect, meaning "strip," a nod to the way the cheese is traditionally cut. It’s also affectionately termed "fire cheese" due to the heating of the curd, which results in a lower moisture content and firmer texture. Sfela is versatile and can be enjoyed on its own or added to various dishes. Popularly, it serves as a key ingredient in saganaki, a classic Greek meze, paired wonderfully with beer, ouzo, or dry wines. In the Messinia region, Sfela finds its place in pies, omelettes, and salads, adding a unique flair to these dishes. Additionally, it is often sprinkled over pasta, incorporated into meat dishes, and used in meals featuring pulses, showcasing its adaptability and enhancing the culinary experience.

Messinian Myzithra

Messinian mizithra is a distinct variation of the traditional Greek cheese, known for its dry and salty characteristics. Unlike the fresher mizithra varieties, this cheese is crafted from the milk of sheep and goats that graze on the unique vegetation of the Messinia region, imparting a distinctive flavour profile. Predominantly used in traditional pies, its crumbly texture and savoury taste make it an exceptional addition to various culinary creations, particularly as a topping for pasta where it adds a delightful contrast. Beyond its role in cooking, Messinian mizithra shines when enjoyed simply with a drizzle of honey, offering a perfect balance between its saline notes and the natural sweetness of honey. This versatile cheese thus holds a cherished place in both everyday and festive Greek cuisine.

Messinian Kefalotiri

Kefalotiri is a traditional hard cheese that has been a staple of Messinia since Byzantine times. Crafted from a blend of pasteurised sheep's and goat's milk, kefalotiri boasts a robust and tangy flavour that makes it a versatile addition to various culinary experiences. This cheese's firm texture and rich taste make it an ideal component of a meze platter, perfectly complementing a glass of ouzo or another aperitif. Additionally, its sharpness and crumbly nature render it an excellent choice for grating over pasta, adding a delightful depth of flavour to the dish. Whether enjoyed on its own or as an enhancement to meals, kefalotiri remains a beloved element of Greek culinary tradition.

Messinian Graviera

This exceptional hard yellow cheese, crafted from 100% pasteurised goat’s and sheep’s milk, boasts a slightly sweet and spicy flavour coupled with a rich aroma that tantalises the senses. It undergoes a meticulous maturation process for at least three months, allowing its complex flavours to fully develop before it graces the table. Renowned for its exceptional quality and taste, this cheese is one of the most awarded in Messinia, a region celebrated for its rich culinary heritage. Its distinctive profile makes it a standout choice for cheese enthusiasts and a delightful addition to any gourmet experience.

Messinian sausages Messinian sausages

Charcuterie

Syglino

One traditional meze from Messinia that fits this description perfectly is "syglino." Syglino is a delectable cured pork dish that highlights the rich culinary heritage of the region. The preparation begins with boiling the pork to remove excess fat, followed by salting and smoking the meat with aromatic woods and plants, infusing it with a distinctive, savoury flavour. The pork is then cooked with wine and flavoured with orange, which adds a delightful citrus note to the dish. Syglino can be preserved in oil, ensuring its longevity, or it can be enjoyed fresh. Thinly sliced, it pairs wonderfully with wine, beer, or local spirits. Additionally, syglino is a versatile ingredient in traditional recipes such as omelettes and kagianas, offering a savoury and aromatic depth that enhances the overall dish.

Sausage with orange

Messinian sausages are a traditional local product, known for their distinctive and enduring preparation methods that have remained unchanged for centuries. These sausages are renowned for their unique flavour, which is attributed to the infusion of orange and salt. The orange imparts a subtle citrus note that balances the savoury elements, while the salt acts as a natural preservative, ensuring the sausages remain flavourful and safe to eat over time. Additionally, an alternative preparation method involves smoking the sausages with various herbs and spices, adding a layer of aromatic complexity to their taste. This traditional craft not only highlights the rich culinary heritage of Messinia but also showcases the region's dedication to preserving age-old techniques and flavours.

Oregano Oregano

Herbs and aromatics

Oregano

Oregano, often called the 'joy of the mountain,' is an aromatic herb deeply intertwined with traditional Greek cuisine and culture. Revered in ancient Greece as a plant of happiness, oregano thrives in the hilly regions of Messinia, particularly on the slopes of Mount Taygetos, where it blooms in late summer and autumn. This versatile herb enhances the flavours of sauces, salads, meat, and fish dishes with its robust, earthy taste. Beyond its culinary uses, oregano is celebrated for its health benefits, boasting natural booster and antiseptic properties that contribute to overall well-being. Its dual role as a flavourful ingredient and a medicinal herb underscores its enduring significance in both gastronomy and holistic health practices.

Thyme

Thyme, a revered symbol of courage among ancient Greeks, is a versatile herb that extends its benefits beyond mere symbolism. In culinary practices, thyme serves as a delightful alternative to oregano, infusing dishes with its distinct, earthy flavour. This aromatic herb can transform simple recipes into gourmet experiences, whether sprinkled over roasted vegetables, blended into marinades, or used to season meats. Additionally, thyme's value transcends the kitchen; it is often prepared as an infusion to harness its therapeutic qualities. Rich in antioxidants and possessing antimicrobial properties, thyme tea can soothe sore throats, aid digestion, and strengthen the immune system. This multifaceted herb, deeply rooted in history and health, continues to be a cherished component of both traditional and modern practices.

Fennel

Found throughout the Mediterranean, fennel is a versatile and aromatic herb known for its mild aniseed flavour, making it a delightful addition to a variety of culinary creations. Its feathery fronds and crunchy bulbs can be used to enhance the taste of fish and meat dishes, offering a subtle sweetness that complements savoury flavours. Additionally, fennel is a superb ingredient in vegetable soups, where its unique taste can elevate the overall profile of the dish. Whether roasted, sautéed, or raw, fennel adds a refreshing and slightly sweet note that pairs well with a diverse array of ingredients, making it a favourite among chefs and home cooks alike.

Mountain tea

The dried flowers, leaves, and stems of the Sideritis plant, often known as Greek mountain tea, are a cherished herbal remedy found in the mountainous regions of Greece, particularly abundant on Mount Taygetos at elevations between 1,300 and 2,000 metres. This naturally caffeine-free tea is celebrated for its numerous health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Historically, mountain tea was esteemed for its medicinal uses; in ancient times, it was employed to treat wounds inflicted by iron weapons, a nod to its Greek name ("sideros" meaning iron). Today, it continues to be a popular beverage, appreciated not only for its soothing flavour but also for its potential to support overall wellness.

Mount Taygetos honey Mount Taygetos honey

Sweets and preserves

Honey

The honey of Mount Taygetos is a remarkable product, derived from bees that thrive on the diverse flora of Messinia. Among the most common varieties are fir honey and heather honey, but you will also encounter thyme, blossom, sage, and pine honey. This 100% natural sweetener is a staple in many local recipes, often used as a healthier alternative to sugar. Integral to the Messinian diet, it enhances the flavour of pies, and serves as a delightful spread on toast, crackers, bread, or rusk. Honey can also be elegantly drizzled over yoghurt, dried nuts, or sfela cheese, adding a touch of sweetness and complexity. A visit to Messinia would be incomplete without savouring diples—twisted pieces of dried dough enriched with honey and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon. This local delicacy showcases the region's culinary heritage and the versatile, delicious honey it produces.

Pasteli

Kalamata's famous Pasteli bars are a delightful testament to the simplicity and richness of traditional Greek cuisine. These bars are traditionally crafted with just two exceptional ingredients: high-quality local honey and sesame seeds, which combine to create a sweet, nutty, and nutritious treat. Variations of Pasteli can include almonds and mixed nuts, offering a delightful twist on the classic recipe. Available in both soft and crunchy textures, Pasteli bars are not only delicious but also a healthy snack, boasting more calcium than milk and serving as a fantastic source of quick energy. Whether enjoyed on their own or paired with yoghurt, these bars are a must-have. Don't forget to take a few bars home with you to savour a taste of Kalamata's culinary heritage.

Loukoumia

Kalamata loukoumia, a timeless dessert reminiscent of Turkish delight, offer a delightful culinary experience with their variety of flavours such as mastiha, ouzo, and rosewater. These soft, chewy confections are always generously dusted with a snowy layer of icing sugar, adding a touch of sweetness and a festive appearance. To truly savour the experience, pair these delectable treats with a cup of traditional Greek coffee, whether you prefer it plain or sweet. The rich, robust flavours of the coffee beautifully complement the delicate, aromatic notes of the loukoumia, creating a moment of pure indulgence and cultural immersion.

Preserves and jams

In Messinia the bounty of local fruit and vegetables is not limited to fresh consumption. Instead, these agricultural treasures are often preserved in the form of delectable jams and spoon sweets, ensuring their flavours can be enjoyed throughout the year. Jams from Messinia capture the essence of strawberries, figs, prickly pears, and even green olives, presenting a unique twist on this traditional preserve. Spoon sweets, a customary gift to visitors, are equally diverse and delightful, made from ingredients as varied as prunes, sour cherries, carrots, and Arabic peanuts. These sweet treats not only serve as a delicious way to enjoy the region's produce, but they also carry the warmth and hospitality of Messinian culture, making every bite a taste of tradition and community.

Arabic peanuts

Arabic peanuts, also known as Arachida, are cultivated in the Bournias area of Kalamata and are celebrated for their high content of 'good fat', making them a nutritious addition to any diet. These versatile peanuts can be enjoyed in various forms: shelled, where only the seeds are consumed; whole, eaten with the shell; or pureed into a creamy peanut butter that offers a delightful twist on the familiar spread. Additionally, Arabic peanuts are available as an oil, perfect for cooking or drizzling over salads. Whether eaten as a snack on their own or paired with fruits and dried figs, these peanuts provide a delicious and healthy way to enjoy their numerous benefits.

Artichokes Artichokes

Vegetables and pulses

Wild asparagus

Wild asparagus, a herald of spring in Messinia, paints the landscape with hues ranging from off-white to green to nearly black. These versatile vegetables thrive across the region, gracing both coastal and mountainous terrains. Their arrival marks a culinary celebration, as they find their way into a variety of local dishes. Whether paired with eggs, fish, or meat, wild asparagus adds a distinctive, earthy flavour that enhances the season's freshest offerings. This annual harvest not only enriches Messinian cuisine but also deepens the connection between the region's natural bounty and its cultural traditions.

Mikromani artichokes

The Mikromanis artichoke, a unique variety of wild artichoke found in Messinia, is celebrated annually in the village of Mikromanis near Thouria, just outside Kalamata. This special occasion, known as the Artichoke Festival, brings together locals and visitors to indulge in the culinary delights centered around this nutritious and versatile vegetable. The festival showcases an array of dishes that highlight the artichoke’s distinct flavour and health benefits, making it a staple in the Messinian diet. 

Antrakla

Antrakla, also known as glystrida, is a highly nutritious wild green celebrated for its rich content of omega-3 fatty acids. This versatile plant can be enjoyed both raw and cooked, making it a valuable addition to a variety of culinary dishes. When eaten raw, antrakla adds a fresh, slightly tangy flavour to salads, perfectly complementing other greens and vegetables. Boiling antrakla softens its texture and enhances its mild, earthy taste, making it an excellent ingredient for hearty soups and stews. In addition to its delightful taste, antrakla offers numerous health benefits, contributing to heart health, reducing inflammation, and supporting overall well-being. 

Rovitsa psilofasoulo

Rovitsa psilofasoulo, a small green pulse resembling lentils, is primarily grown in the Kalamata region. This nutrient-dense legume is packed with protein, iron, and potassium, making it a nutritious addition to any diet. Rovitsa is incredibly versatile in the kitchen; it can be transformed into a velvety soup, a smooth puree for a refreshing cold appetiser, or even crafted into tasty vegetarian meatballs. One of its significant advantages is its convenience, as it doesn't require the lengthy soaking process typical of many other legumes, making it a quick and easy ingredient for a variety of delicious and healthy dishes.

The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

13th June 2024



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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We promise that a member of our specialist reservation teams will reply personally to your holiday enquiry before 5.30pm if received before 12.00pm (Monday to Friday). Enquiries received after 12.00pm will be replied to within 24-hours (excluding Sundays).

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